Although Real-Time Strategy videogames are available on consoles, the genre is particularly popular with the PC crowd. There’s something about the keyboard + mouse combo that makes PC gaming incredibly convenient here. While this genre isn’t your typical crowd-pleaser like its FPS, TPS, and MMORPG peers, great strategy games focus on quality and well-planned and well-executed features.
The RTS aspect of PC gaming stretches across more than two decades, which is why this list will feature some of the all-time classics, as well as more recent titles. Here are some of the best RTS videogames of all time.
C&C Red Alert 2
Horrible, cheesy acting. The most basic plot. Americans and Russians. Although most of Westwood’s classics are fantastic, this game from the Command & Conquer series was an instant classic after its initial release, back in 2000. The factions might be the best part of this game – they are so diverse and distinct that each one managed to bring vastly different playstyles to the table.
Of course, the interesting campaigns and cutscenes (fun in spite of cheesiness), incredibly cool units (especially in the Yuri’s Revenge expansion), and awesome, well-balanced maps, are the additional factors that make this game a true classic.
C&C 3: Tiberium Wars
Although this one boasts a similar gaming atmosphere as Red Alert 2, these two Command & Conquer titles are absolutely nothing alike. C&C 3 is set in the future, where Tiberium, an extremely powerful resource has started affecting the Earth’s ecosystem. Although the plot is very well thought out and genuinely fun, it’s the gameplay here that makes this game truly memorable.
You have three factions (GDI, Brotherhood of Nod, and Scrin), each having its own campaign, but more importantly, each one is so well-balanced that it’s a blast to get into multiplayer. Additionally, the game offers fantastic animations and excellent graphics for the time (2007), as well as impeccable optimization.
Rome: Total War
Now, if you are into both macro- and micromanagement, and you were a gamer back in 2004, you probably remember when this one was released. Set in Ancient Rome, this entry from the popular Total War series offers fantastic management options during the world map part of the game, plus incredible and realistic tactics and battlefield mechanics in the battle map view.
You get to manage everything from food, taxes, settlement upkeep to armies, savage tribes, and individual generals. On the battle map, you’re put in charge of your entire army in a realistic, never-before-seen manner. Rome: Total War is an RTS classic that has managed to bring a whole new level of realism to the world of strategy gaming.
Total War: Warhammer II
The Total War series was, and still is, incredibly popular in the gaming world. This game was released towards the end of 2017 and managed to bring a whole lot to the already well-thought-through and familiar Total War gaming mechanic. Even if you aren’t a fan of Warhammer, Games Workshop’s fantasy universe, you are pretty much guaranteed to enjoy this game if you like good RTS.
The game works in a similar manner as Rome: Total War (and all other Total War games), but even though the foundation is the same, this game brings a ton of new stuff to the table. All four available factions are non-human races. The game allows you to utilize magic and explore Warhammer fantasy lore.
Company of Heroes
This game is a real breakthrough in the RTS strategy genre. Never before have excellent graphics in combination with a fantastic AI, pathfinding, and tactics brought a title so perfectly in tune. Company of Heroes is RTS in its truest meaning, set in the Second World War with a brilliant campaign and an even more engaging and awesome multiplayer. Even if you play it now, almost 13 years after its initial release, you’ll still be more than satisfied with its graphics and physics.
Infantry units, tanks, air support, snipers, all of these units are perfectly well-balanced with their surroundings. Every detail is well thought out – for example, occupying a house gives your infantry fantastic cover but exposes them to flamethrowers. This game might be a Real-Time Strategy title, but never has an RTS been so much about tactics, in combination with actual strategy.
World in Conflict
What if Russia had decided to invade the United States, back during the final moments of the Cold War? World in Conflict is an RTS game set in 1989, exploring this exact scenario. The single-player campaign puts you in the shoes of a commander of the US troops trying to deflect and defend his homeland from the Soviet invader. The story truly is great, strengthened by the graphics, animations, and the gritty realism of a bomb-devastated battlefield.
But it’s the unique playstyle and battlefield-wide focus that truly make this title stick out. World in Conflict replaces the ‘construction’ aspect of the game (build a factory that builds units) with unit deployment. Every new unit that you request is delivered to you by air.
The RTS genre may not be extremely popular at the moment, but it has no shortage of fantastic titles. Here are some cool RTS games that didn’t make the cut, but are worth checking out nonetheless.
- Sins of a Solar Empire – This fantastic RTS brings the genre into space. Although not the first one to utilize this idea, some claim that this game does it the best.
- Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II – Not to be confused with Total War: Warhammer II, this game has more similarities with Company of Heroes than with the Total War installment. In fact, it uses the same engine and has been developed by Relic Entertainment, too.
- Warcraft 3 – This may well be the best game on the list. However, its ‘strategy’ aspect isn’t its most popular one. Warcraft 3 has been used for many game mods, such as the original DotA and D-Day.
What’s your favorite game from the list? Did you find any of these disappointing? Let us know in the comments and feel free to add some titles that we might’ve forgotten.